Entrepreneur Profile: Shlesha Van, founder of Ora-3D

Staples is proud to support Canadian entrepreneurs with tools and resources to help them build their businesses and turn their dreams into reality. That’s why, together with Ownr (by RBC Ventures), Shopify and Moneris, we joined the Canada Starts initiative to support Canadian entrepreneurs by awarding grants to help them get their big idea off the ground. We caught up with Shlesha Van, founder of Ora-3D, to find out how her business venture is going since being awarded a Canada Starts grant.

Tell us a bit about your business.

Ora-3D is an oral health consumer technology start-up working towards bridging the gap between clinical dentistry recommendations and consumers. We have revolutionized the toothbrush to directly simulate the dentist’s recommended brushing technique.

How did you get started?

The idea came to me after a regular visit to the dentist. I had several cavities, which was a complete surprise given that I am so diligent with my oral hygiene.

Being an engineer, I began to do a lot of research on dental hygiene and good practices and realized that I had been brushing poorly for several years. It is such a basic thing we all do every day, and yet according to my research, 90% of people are not brushing with the right technique. Furthermore, the toothbrushes we use are not designed to brush our teeth properly. So, I decided to reinvent the toothbrush.

How did COVID-19 shape your business idea?

Given that we are working towards launching an entirely new product, a lot of the work we had to do involved meeting with people every day, understanding their problems and integrating that into design and production.

COVID-19 entirely shifted our approach and timeline. We could not meet with people in person or have them try our product. We had to reach people through Facebook groups and LinkedIn, and it was extremely challenging to convince complete strangers to do video calls with us. It also pushed us to focus a lot more of our efforts into building a digital presence and adapting our strategy for an online product launch.

Why did you decide to start a business during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Effective brushing is a key component of good oral hygiene. It’s a problem that had to be solved and I did not want the pandemic to be a reason not to pursue this goal. Starting a business during COVID-19 has taught me how to be adaptable.

What’s your greatest struggle as a business owner right now?

I would say it’s trying to find the right factory to build the prototype of the product. Since the product is not on the market yet, I’ve also had to try to slowly create an online presence in anticipation of launch.

What are your expectations for 2021 as an entrepreneur?

I am hoping to master the art of digital presence for my business, and I’m hoping for an effective and successful product launch!

Where do you think entrepreneurs should invest their time and money?

COVID-19 has only pushed people to spend more time online. The problem with the digital space is that people have a low attention span. It’s a “click fast and forget” economy for consumer products. Building a good online presence through marketing, branding and educational content is important to create value for the customer and leave a lasting impression.

What keeps you inspired and working every day?

I love having an idea and seeing it evolve over time. I am passionate about every step of my project, from the simple idea to the creation of a prototype, through research and consultations.

I’m also very motivated to educate people about their dental hygiene and show them the right way to take care of their teeth and mouth. Something so simple but so important!

What tips do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs in 2021?

Focus on creating value for your customers. Whether it’s your social media presence or your product, creating value is the only way to build a business. Solve a problem and you will take your first step towards being an entrepreneur.

How does Staples Canada help your business?

I visit Staples.ca for everything from pens and papers to Sharpies and printer inks.

Learn more about Ora-3D at www.ora3d.com

Facebook: @ora3dtoothbrush

Instagram: @ora.3d

Check out Small Business & Entrepreneurship on our Working and Learning Blog to learn more about how Staples Canada is supporting Canadian entrepreneurs.

By Staples Canada

July 29, 2021

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